Editorials

Questionable public policy surrounding BPL

Good governance requires true transparency about the crafting and intent of public policy.

Accountability dictates that elected officials who were given the public trust and handed oversight of our national resources effectively communicate those policy positions.

If public policy evolves into something that differs from what was promised along the campaign trail, the public should understand why, and well before it takes effect.

It was, therefore, remarkable to witness Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey recently outline a major shift in public policy regarding the sale of generation assets commissioned and paid for by BPL to a foreign company.

Moxey revealed during a presentation at the 29th Annual Bahamas Business Outlook at the Baha Mar resort last Thursday, and in a subsequent interview at the event, that BPL plans to sell stations A and D at the Clifton Pier Power Station to Shell North America.

He also said that BPL would purchase power from Shell – produced by engines BPL built, and will build with what are ultimately taxpayer funds.

That an asset owned by the Bahamian people would be sold to a foreign company is not, in and of itself, incredible news; though it is newsworthy.

The sale of the South Riding Point terminal in Grand Bahama to Statoil, the majority of which is owned by the sovereign wealth fund of Norway, and the sale of a major stake in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company to Cable & Wireless Communications, readily come to mind.

One sale was met with little public remark; the other became a major topic of national debate and a lynchpin election issue for the last Ingraham administration.

But in both those instances, the divestment of the public’s assets was announced by no less than the prime minister before anyone else opined.

Apparently, such conventions are passe under the Minnis administration.

In the first instance, during the business outlook, Moxey failed to explain why BPL would sell an asset it had already paid for, built and operates with Wartsila with no help from Shell, only to turn around and purchase power from Shell.

There was no hard data; nothing to explain why this would make financial sense.

Secondly, the Free National Movement administration’s intention to make a shift in public policy, particularly one as major as relinquishing assets paid for by the taxpayer, needs to be a conversation had among the public and the members of the administration the public placed confidence in through the casting of ballots in the last general election.

Talented though Moxey may be, no one voted for him.

His is an appointed position.

His function is to carry out public policy approved by the political directorate to the best of his ability.

It does not come before him to dictate to the public in small pockets major shifts in public policy before they can be communicated and explained by those we entrusted with the crafting of it.

The Free National Movement manifesto speaks to privatizing the Bahamas Electricity Corporation to ensure Bahamian ownership through a majority shareholding.

That is not what Moxey laid out, nor was it for him to pre-emptively lay out.

Nothing along the lines of what Moxey recently explained, or in line with what was said in the FNM’s manifesto, was disclosed in Parliament during debate on the Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2019 last November.

The plan for BPL seems to transform from month to month.

It is insulting and sloppy.

If the taxpayers are to fund the transformation of the sole public power provider on New Providence, we deserve much better than this.

 

• Tomorrow, we will explore the evolution of the Shell deal and the opaque manner in which the government has approached it.

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